Understanding Recent Changes to the Driver CPC Qualification in the UK
The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC, or simply Driver CPC) is a crucial qualification for professional drivers in the UK, ensuring they possess the necessary skills and knowledge to guarantee road safety and efficiency.
Recent updates to the Driver CPC have been announced, sparking discussions within the industry. In this article, we will delve into the key changes and explore the possible challenges for drivers.
The background to the DCPC
The DCPC was introduced in 2007 through EU legislation, to enhance the skills and knowledge of professional drivers. It consists of two parts: the initial qualification, obtained by passing a series of tests, and periodic training to ensure drivers stay informed about the latest regulations and safety practices. DCPC is renewed via the completion of periodic training every 5 years, consisting of 35 hours of training required before commercial driving is permitted.
What is the rationale behind the changes to the DCPC?
Amendments to the DCPC have been long asked for within the transport, as revealed by a government survey where 72% of respondents expressed discontent with the existing training. In fact, almost half of this number expressed a desire for the DCPC to be scrapped altogether.
These numbers further illustrated the overall feeling within the industry that changes need to be made.
Back in 2021, the UK Government began discussions about reform for the training of HGV drivers, as there was an ‘acute driver shortage’, possibly resulting in apprehension and indifferent views on the length and nature of the DCPC course as it was at the time.
In conjunction with this, a report produced at the same time by the RHA and Driver Require highlighted a lack of diversity within the HGV driver workforce. Only 1% of truck drivers in the UK were female, and under 20% of HGV drivers were under the age of 36. These numbers not only show a lack of representation and diversity but also highlight the worrying issue regarding the attraction of lorry-driving careers for the younger generation.
With all this in mind, changes have been brought forward and presented for the CPC courses, with the hope that amendments will make driving more attractive, as well as more accommodating for all. While specific details are pending further consultation, expectations are set for changes to commence around mid-2024 or 2025.
Anticipated changes coming up for the DCPC
Below we will look at some of the main changes being discussed at this point.
The introduction of two qualification classes
The proposed introduction of two qualification classes, National CPC (N-DCPC) for UK-only driving and International CPC (I-DCPC) for cross-border driving, aims to streamline training priorities and provide clarity for drivers travelling abroad.
The removal of blocked courses and minimum course durations
To enhance flexibility, the government suggests reducing the minimum training course duration from 7 to 3.5 hours. This change, coupled with the elimination of the requirement for courses to be completed over two consecutive days, offers trainers and trainees more adaptability.
While the 35-hour periodic training remains mandatory, the proposed changes aim to alleviate pressure on both trainers and trainees.
Easier return for previous DCPC holders
Addressing driver shortages, a proposed initial 7-hour refresher course, followed by the standard 28 hours for the full DCPC offers a streamlined path for returning drivers whose license has expired. This gives returning drivers the ability to drive for their haulage business, following the 7 hours refresher, and whilst undertaking the remaining 28 hours within 12 months for their full licence.
This approach, expected in 2024, aims to expedite the return of experienced drivers to address current gaps in the industry and ease concerns regarding recruitment.
Changes to e-learning to allow for more flexible course completion
The introduction of more flexible completion for e-learning components allows trainees to complete online courses at a different time, separate from the trainer-led sessions. While a specific time limit is yet to be defined, this change acknowledges the need for adaptability within training schedules.
Potential amendments to the DQCs
Although this is still under review, there has been a desire from many to digitise the Driver Qualification Cards (DQCs). Currently tangible cards, the proposal is to digitise these cards to decrease the chances of fraud but also to increase convenience for the driver, and safeguard their licence.
Industry response to these changes
Chris Yarsley, Senior Policy Manager, Road Freight Regulation at Logistics UK, speaks positively of these new regulatory changes, suggesting that these policy amendments help to give the strained, yet unequivocally vital industry some much-needed flexibility.
“Road safety is the bedrock on which professional drivers operate and the Driver CPC regime is at the heart of this commitment”, he continues, “the increased flexibility that the new legislation will permit will enable logistics businesses to keep goods moving through the supply chain while ensuring that their drivers remain up to date on key professional driving legislation.”
As the transport industry anticipates final decisions on DCPC changes, drivers need to stay informed and actively participate in the consultation process. The ongoing commitment to adapt the qualification underscores its relevance and responsiveness to the evolving dynamics of the transport sector, ultimately contributing to enhanced road safety.
A full list of these proposed changes can be found on the DfT’s website here (subject to change).